British Racing Competition new eligibility rules


I’m intrigued by the new British Rowing appraisal of the ‘points system’ for winning races and defining eligibility. Clearly there’s a move to change it due to the increasing participation base of rowers who like to race but prefer a “fun run” format and also the desire to create competitive events for the top class of club athlete.

It has run in two different guises through my rowing career and with minor amendments has defined competitive rowing in the UK for years.

This has always been a problem because by definition there are few at the peak of the pyramid of skill and experience. Read the feedback from British Rowing members.

One possible solution is to set “Gold Standard” prognostic times.  We wrote an article series on rowing prognostics and their use in rowing training.

We received an email from a reader with this proposal – it sounds interesting.

I am trying to find methods of doing Gold Medal times as a replacement for status points which as you probably know are to be phased out. By comparing times with course record times a wind and wave component could be worked out to give  G M times. Very complicated but all the above would be done by computer programme to give  crew and so individual times.

The plan is to have three levels of Champs, Intermediate and Beginner/ novice, as BUCS do but BUCS have money bribery to enter Champs.

We will need some method of putting good guys in the top level to prevent them eating all the pies. I think setting a Head level e.g. top75 at HORR and top 50 at WeHORR + all the other big Heads would be possible. Then could we move to Gold Standard when the technology is available

What do you think and ideas on how to progress?

My view is that you work off the same GM times as the British senior team used the previous year.  Yes it means nobody will get close to 90% but they are consistent.

I do not think a wind or wave component should be added – that’s just he luck of the draw as per international records in rowing.  Tailwind = lucky you.

Agree with the Head Level as the trial at which most British rowers will receive a classification.  Suggest eliminating all foreign competitors so just grade British Clubs at those events.  You should also have regional classification regattas at a similar time e.g. Tyne Head, Head of the Dee, the one in York, something in Scotland / West Country for those not coming to London.

Then anyone who does not have a classification in the current racing season either starts at the one they had the previous year (i.e. no regression allowed) or races with what ever classification the rest of the crew is in for their first side by side regatta that season.  This could be gamed but you could then force upgrades after the first regatta win.  I think that top finishers in side by side should all go up a grade i.e. semi-finalists as well as winners so there is still good competition and it’s easier to progress.

In this way everyone is reclassified every season and if they start low and win races, they go up a grade and could be Henley contenders by June if they missed the Head because of illness or injury.

The key to any new system is to work out what happens in a couple of key scenarios:

  • Athlete returns from his US university to race Henley having missed classification
  • Athlete misses classification due to injury
  • Athlete takes a break and comes back to the sport less fit  than two years previously
  • Athlete switches to sculling from sweep or vice versa

If you can work out what happens in these four situations then you’ll probably have a workable system IMO.


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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Donald Legget

    I do wish that BR would stop messing around with points because club oarsmen keep failing to beat J15 oarsmen from most schools.

    1. Rowperfect

      Can you suggest a fair racing structure that gives good races to young and older athletes?

      1. Chris Kenyon

        There is a view that the problem we have had for years is that there is a fear that if rowers do not win anything they will leave the sport. Accordingly it is too often too easy to win pots particularly with so many statuses and so many events with only 2 or 3 entries. Compare this to say Sunday league footballers. They play week in week out throughout the winter in hail rain and shine and if they win the league they get a medal. If they are second they get nothing. And back they come next year for more. And there is nothing new in young schoolboys racing and beating club rowers – we had no option when many of us started as there were no age related events for juniors……….The current proposals could go a long way to improving matters. Keep it simple. Also let us not disregard recreational rowing as a potential and fulfilling part of the competition structure…..the North East League for recreational rowers has been a great success.

        1. Tom

          Although I agree with your Sunday league example, I’d say that one reason Sunday league players come back is because even if they lose more than they win there is a ranking in place so they can see how they compare.

          When BR asked for suggestions my own suggestion was to set up a ranking of all registered BR rowers, a rowing ranking and a sculling ranking. Using the BR System which knows who is entered in a racing crew and what the results are relative performances at head races could be used to give a weighted points status/ranking depending on how all the competitors did relative to GMT and the rest of the athletes. Similar to at university how results are weighted if the test was too hard, similarly if the race had a head wind or was against the stream it would’ve been the same for everyone so would balance out. If your were within 90% of GMT then you’d move up the rankings etc and over time and the head season people would “settle” at their relative ranking, and points/status could be awarded depending on your ranking, so the top 100 are elite, next 100 senior ect

          It’s only a rough idea but the main point being having a ranking makes it easier to see where you are, and gives incentives to try and move up the ranking wherever possible

  2. CT

    The most important question, which we seem to be skipping is why does it need to change? I’m not saying it doesn’t but if we don’t have a goal then we won’t get any worthwhile changes.

    My own idea;

    Day 0 – September 1st – 0 points.

    Head Races – get points based on number of crews entered (in your boat class) and number of points of the crews in the draw (points = (number of crews – place) * ( number of points / number of crews)). So by the time of 8s head, points are higher and you get much more points for 20th than 80th, even though 80th maybe a IM1 crew and 20th maybe an IM3 crew.

    Regatta Races – one seeded draw (based on previous points) but multiple finals- so replacing IM1,IM2,IM3 for example with Cup, Plate and Bowl. So 4th place in Cup should be faster than winner of Plate (almost guaranteed not to happen in competitions at the moment).

    The point to this is to make try ensure everyone get’s at least two rows, that competition for each level is fierce and even, and winning the higher levels really means something.

    With a little bit of record keeping we could have national tables based on number of points in the club, cup wins, plate wins so on so forth, just to add a bit of competition.

    I don’t see why someone can’t use the online entry system (assuming it stores entries and results) to see whether this system would work (or any other proposed system), e.g. calculate points up till Marlow last year, and see how well that would of predicted the outcome of results, and do several case studies of various local regatta’s and see if the draw could of been better set-up under this.

  3. Richard Philips

    The current points system, despite its reputed faults, is a reasonably fair and equitable method of ranking athletes. The proposal for some form of fancy time related ranking system overlooks two basic problems. 1) Not all athletes stay in the same crew for a whole season. There is often a significant change in crews in the period between the Eights Head and the start of the Regatta season. 2) How does the idea of standard times relate to a river regatta with variable tidal flow?

    We have to accept that not all regattas are equal and that a win in IM2 at Marlow or the Met needs attract a higher reward than a win in the same class at a small river event.

    I would suggest that the most “profitable” area for review should be “Masters Rowing”. Here, under the current rules, there is no means differentiating between a group of 30 somethings, who have only been in the sport for a year of so and a bunch of athletes just out of the National Team. There has to be a case for extending some form of classification system, other than just age, into Masters Rowing.

    Unfortunately most regattas need to cover their costs. Few, if any, regattas can afford to run a championship style, seniors only regatta in the format of the New British Championships. Many clubs rely on the profits from running a regatta to bolster their income. They will therefore aim to run events that will generate the highest revenue. These tend to be Junior

  4. Martin

    Perhaps this shows my age but I think the current points system is better than its predecessor of Novice, Senior C Senior B etc in that it allows you to “average” crews and not have to race at the level of the highest points scorer.

    The idea of “saving wins” has always been around and will, in my opinion continue to do so. I can understand this as it is no fun winning at smaller provincial regattas against the same opposition and then getting a right royal stuffing when you venture outside the area.

    I think one error made when they introduced points was the abolition of the qualifying distance. In my hazy memory i remember (and please correct me) that unless a race was over 800 metres then it didn’t qualify as a status win. I think I was told this helped to invent the weekend regatta where you had a serious race over 1200m on the Saturday, partied hard and then had a 500m fun day on the Sunday. Again please correct my rose tinted vision of the past if required.

    My suggestion would be to keep points but change the number for a win to be determined by the category of the regatta. for example a regatta which is used by the Henley Stewards to review potential pre qualifiers could be category 1, a sprint or shortened regatta at the same venue could be category 2 (assuming the same calibre of athletes would be attending) a long course “provincial” regatta would be category 2 and a provincial sprint category 3. points for a win at these categories would be 3,2 and 1 respectively.

    following a previous reply of a cup, bowl and plate competition the maximim points for these events would change for each category of regatta so a cup event at category 3 would be equivalent to a bowl at cat 2 and the plate at cat 3.

    For the masters (and potentially juniors), I would try to handicap crews using both points and age and convert it into a time depending on the course length. e.g a crew with 40 points and average of 40 versus a crew with ave age of 35 and 20 point. the age difference gives a +5 to the 40 yo crew but points gives them a -20 giving them a handicap of -15. say this was a 0,25 second per point handicap this would give the 35yo crew a 3.75 second start.

    I am grateful for you opening this topic as I missed it on the British Rowing site. and this has given me a chance to express my opinion.

    1. Chris A

      Martin, almost right. The qualifying distance was 1000m – it’s the reason the Shrewsbury regatta course used to end rather stupidly on a right angled bend for example – and it’s a great shame it was ever done away with.

      You will of course have the chance to get your club’s view across at any of the regional workshops which are designed to bring up idea like this. There is nothing pre-judged.

      1. Rebecca Caroe

        Chris – where can readers find out about their local regional workshop dates? Is there a link you can share?
        Thanks for contributing and monitoring the discussions.


  5. Brian C

    I was at the Explore Rowing meeting in London on Saturday and got the best summary so far from someone inside British Rowing. The idea is to have no rules but possibly have a HRR type regatta secretary with the power to refuse entries where the crew entered is the wrong standard for the events. So any combination can be entered but pot hunting would be stopped by refusing entries once the culprits were identified.

    Interestingly we were discussing handicapping Sunday League crews and I suggested that everyone does a best effort 500/1000 metre erg time and crews could be handicapped on crew average time irrespective of age or gender.

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